Do you have that friend who, post-outdoor BBQ/camping trip, seems to return with far more mosquito bites than everyone else? Or are you that person, perhaps?  I seem to get bitten a LOT each summer, no matter how much bug spray I douse myself in. Yet my sister seems to possess a magical power that allows her to sit a mere few feet away from me at the 4th of July fireworks, not bother with bug spray, and not receive a single bug bite.

All frustrations aside, I do find this curious. I happened to bring up the question "why do some people get bit more than others?" to a professor whose lab I work in, Dr. Craig Cady. (Side note: the lab is actually a stem cell lab, but Dr. Cady received his Ph.D. in entomology, so you could say he's a reliable source..)

Dr. Cady says that bug bite frequency boils down to a few main variables: CO2 generated from the person, CO2 present in the blood, heat generated from the person, and levels of various acidic elements or other compounds in the blood, such as lactic acid or cholesterol. Now, just because I get a lot of bug bites does not necessarily mean I have abnormally high cholesterol levels--it is possible that my body is more efficient at processing cholesterol, a component of cell membranes.

As for the lactic acid (or anything else acidic, for that matter), bugs love it. I do happen to be a pretty physically active person, especially during warmer parts of the year (all-day beach outings? Yes, please.) So, it would make sense that I might have somewhat higher amounts of lactic acid circulating through me, along with the fact that I’m producing more CO2 and heat as I run/bike/swim/rollerblade/jetpack/pogo-stick around.

A bunch of research has been conducted (and still is being conducted) regarding why bugs show personal preference to certain individuals. Other possible variables that scientists are considering include blood type (studies have shown possible correlation with O Types), metabolism, and the amount of naturally occurring bacteria found on human skin (the germier the better, apparently.)

So there you have it! As with many weirdish phenomena, there definitely isn’t one set trait that makes some people more attractive to mosquitoes. Even though there's definitely still work to be done in narrowing down all these factors, and figuring out what factors are present person to person, this question won’t be “bugging” me any longer!

Sources: Dr. Craig Cady at Bradley University, http://www.smithsonianmag.com/science-nature/why-do-mosquitoes-bite-some-people-more-than-others-10255934/


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